Weightage given since 2011

2011 2
2012 6
2013 3
2014 5


How to study Ancient History?

The ancient History starts from the earliest time to the middle of 8th Century AD. This article tells you on how to read and what topics to focus on from Prelims perspective.


Prehistoric Period– Stone Age, Paleolithic Age, Mesolithic Age, Neolithic Age, Chalcolithic Age


  • On what basis is the Prehistoric period classified.
  • The mode of living of people like hunting, domestication.

Indus Valley Civilization/ Harappan Civilization (2500 BC- 1500 BC)


  • The lifestyle of people during this period- Social, Economic (agriculture, trade and commerce), Religious and Cultural activities.
  • Important Harappan sites and its significance. Example: Mohenjodaro, Harappa and others.
  • Script and language used during IVC.
  • Art and Crafts- seals, pottery etc.
  • Why did the civilization decline?


Example (2011 Prelims Questions Paper):


Regarding the Indus Valley Civilization, consider the following statements:(2011)

1. It was predominantly a secular civilization and the religious element, though present, did not dominate the scene,

2. During this period, cotton was used for manufacturing textiles in India.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a.) 1 only

(b.) 2 only

(c.) Both 1 and 2

(d.) Neither 1 nor 2

Solution (c)



Vedic Period (1500 BC- 1000 BC)


  • Society (people and their lifestyle)- family, marriage, status of women, caste system or social divisions.
  • Economic Life and Political Organisation.
  • Culture and Religion
  • Literature during Vedic times – Vedas, Upanishads, Dharma Shastras, Puranas and Six systems of Philosophy.
  • Important Gods worshipped and their significance to Vedic people.
  • Differences between Early and Later Vedic Society and life styles followed.


Note: Terms like Purohita, Jana or Kula- UPSC has started picking such terms and asking simple questions based on the term. You should be prepared not to miss these questions.

Example (2011 Prelims Questions Paper):

Which of the following characterizes/ characterize the people of Indus Civilization? (2013)

1. They possessed great palaces and temples.

2. They worshipped both male and female deities.

3. They employed horse-drawn chariots in warfare.

Select the correct statement/ statements using the codes given below.

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 only

(e) 1, 2 and 3

(d)  None of the statements given above is correct

Solution (b)



Buddhism and Jainism


  • Reasons for the growth of such religious movements
  • Buddha and Mahavira -their Believes (in Nirvana, Law of Karma etc.),their Contributions, Teachings, Philosophy, Literature.
  • Important Events during their Life (Enlightenment); Buddhist and Jaina Councils.
  • Types of Bhuddhism – Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana (their believes and differences among them)
  • Two Sects of Jainism – Svetamabara and Digambara; Ajivikas
  • Differences between Jainism and Buddhism
  • Causes of Decline of Buddhism and Janism

Example (2011 Prelims Questions Paper):

With reference to the history of ancient India, which of the following was/were common to both Buddhism and Jainism?(2012)

1. Avoidance of extremities of penance and enjoyment

2. Indifference to the authority of the Vedas

3. Denial of efficacy of rituals

Select the correct answer using the codes given below :

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Solution (b) 



Kingdoms/Empires during the Ancient Period

During the Ancient times, we come across different Empires and Dynastic rule-

The Mauryan Empire, Guptas, Sunga, Kanva dynasties’, Satavahanas, Rastrakutas, Pallavas, Cholas, Cheras, Pandyas , Chalukyas.


While studying these Kingdoms, you have to Focus on the following aspects:

  • The rise of the Empires – causes, impact.
  • Important Rulers – ChandraGupta Maurya, Ashoka (Ashoka’s Dhamma, Edicts and important sites where they were found) and their contribution to the society, art and culture.
  • The Economic and Social Conditions during the rule
  • Art and Architecture
  • Literature -Famous literary works – Kalidasa’s ‘Abhigyanashakuntalam’ etc.
  • Development of Science and technology – Aryabhatta’s ‘Suryasiddhanta’ etc.
  • The Decline of the empires – causes
  • Foreign travellers and their works Example: Chinese traveler Fahein’s account of India during in the 5th

Note : Special importance should be given to Mauryan and Gupta’s time

Example (2012 Prelims Questions Paper):


With reference to the guilds (Shreni) of ancient India that played a very important role in the country’s economy, which of the following statements is /are correct?(2012)

1. Every guild was registered with the central authority of the State and the king was the chief administrative authority on them.

2. The wages, rules of work, standards and prices were fixed by the guild.

3. The guild had judicial powers over its own members.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below :

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Solution (d)


Click here to view the ‘Ancient History’ Questions that had appeared in the last four years (2011-2014)


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